Submitted to: Advances in Agronomy
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: January 4, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Evolution of the soil quality concept as an educational and assessment tool for determining the sustainability of soil management practices and land use decisions is discussed. Specific goals for the review are to (1) discuss the rapid development of the soil quality concept, (2) address the misconception regarding soil quality efforts being "an end unto itself," and (3) document how soil quality research, education and technology transfer efforts are being used to guide research and help solve various soil resource and related ecosystem problems. By using examples from throughout the U.S. and around the world, the importance of understanding that soil quality reflects both inherent and dynamic properties and processes occurring within a living, dynamic medium is discussed. The review stresses that soil quality assessment reflects biological, chemical, and physical properties, processes and their interactions within each soil resource unit. It also emphasizes that there is no ideal or magic index value, illustrating instead a framework for indexing that requires identifying critical soil functions, selecting appropriate indicators, developing appropriate scoring or interpretation guidelines, and combining the information into values that can be tracked over time to determine if the soil resource is being sustained, degraded, or aggraded.